Minnesota senior, nurse and family caregiver reflects on her career

Shoreview resident Judy Anderson has seen the world of senior care through various perspectives.

As a professional nurse, she regularly cared for seniors during her 36-year career.

As a daughter, she helped care for her mother during her last years until she passed at the age of 100.

Judy Anderson

And now, at the age of 70, Judy is in the middle of her own aging journey and is learning how to adapt when there are things she can no longer do on her own.

“I have been through many difficult situations and am grateful for what I have learned from them,” Judy said. “Looking back, they were opportunities for growth. Attitude matters!”

Judy was born in Saint Paul and has lived in Shoreview for the past 35 years. By the time she was eight years old, she already knew that she wanted to be a nurse. After high school, Judy attended nursing school at the University of Minnesota and graduated in 1970. After graduation, she worked for the Oncology Department at the University of Minnesota.

She worked for Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul for ten years and later worked for Unity Hospital in Fridley for 26 years. Nurses, of course, are an integral part of the medical staff because they provide constant care for patients – hour by hour, day by day.

“I was the night charge nurse. I oversaw 30 bed units and did direct patient care,” Judy said. “It was rewarding because we could make suggestions, and we were able to point out things for the doctors.”

As the night charge nurse, Judy assisted the elderly with daily tasks like changing their clothes, explaining their illnesses, assisting in emergencies and making sure they were active.

“I always pushed activities,” Judy said. “Like walking them in the hall.”

Judy also remembers training new staff on how to properly care for seniors and teaching them the importance of compassionate care. “I did a lot of teaching, sometimes showing them tips and tricks,” she said.

Her advice to all young caregivers is to be patient, loving and understanding, because the best part of caring for seniors is being able to comfort them as they age.

Judy’s mother, Dorothy Hallen Melander, at her 100th birthday

Judy was also a family caregiver for her mother, who passed away in February of 2015, five months after reaching the century mark. Judy is glad she was there to comfort her mom during difficult times, including the deaths of friends.

“She didn’t want to live that long,” Judy said. “Because most of her friends were already gone.”

She realized that caring for one’s own family is different than caring for an older adult as a nurse in a hospital. Caring for a family member requires more time and more emotional investment, she explained. Like many family caregivers, Judy was working full-time while caring for her mom. Fortunately, her brother was able to help, and they worked together to provide the support their mother needed.

“We took turns transporting her,” Judy said. “There were lots of doctors’ appointments.”

For Judy’s mom, one of the most challenging parts of aging was losing her physical ability to do everyday things without help. For example, she had two knee replacement surgeries when she was 90 and needed assistance using the bathroom.

“Losing their senses, like hearing and sight, is very difficult,” Judy said. “But she was mentally alert until her death.  She had a rich and full life.”

In Minnesota, more than one million adults will be 65 or older by 2025. The growing senior population will need an additional 25,000 professional caregivers as well as medical care, basic housing and other support over the next decade.

Judy hopes to see more investments across the state to provide resources for seniors who are physically disabled, including transportation services and services for the visually impaired.

“There are a great number of things that can be done for visually impaired people and people who have a decrease in mobility,” Judy said. “Transportation services would have helped take my mom to doctors’ appointments.”

Like many seniors, the biggest challenge for Judy is understanding how new technology works. She says simple things, like explaining how to change the WiFi password, would help her be more tech efficient.

“I just turned 70, so I have trouble figuring out when my computer goes bonkers,” Judy said. “But I’ll get my son over here to help.”

 Andrea Magaña is a regulator contributor to Face Aging MN. If you want to reach her or have any questions, you can reach us at info@faceagingmn.org. Have your own story to share? We’d love to hear from you.


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